Taos Pueblo

Trip Start Dec 29, 2006
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7
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Trip End Jan 13, 2007


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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Wednesday, January 3, 2007

    We woke up early this morning and had a hearty breakfast before setting out on the road to Taos Pueblo. When we arrived in Taos, we bought photo permits and began with a guided tour. First, we went into the church of St. Jerome, which still holds Catholic services every Sunday. The stations of the cross were small and painted in wooden frames. There was a choir loft in the back. The sanctuary had five niches along the front wall where the Virgin Mary (the Catholic figure corresponding most closely to the corn mother of the native religion) was displayed most prominently among five saints. There were corn paintings around the figures (another tie-in to the native religion). The saints were all dressed in white, but the color changes seasonally. There was also a pottery creche to the left and a coffin covered in white cloths to the right. The coffin serves as a reminder of both Jesus' victory over the grave and the oppresive Spanish mandate that all the tribes be solely Catholic and bury their dead in coffins (which they are opposed to doing and which they no longer do). The entire adobe church has two bell towers and is enclosed by a high fence.
    Next, we stopped at the ruins of an older church surrounded by the graveyard. Taos Pueblo tribal members may only enter the graveyard on All Soul's Day, to bury a tribal member, or on the year anniversary of a death to erect a cross. The site was where the first two churches were built. During the conflict between the Pueblos and the United States when the US first acquired New Mexico, several women, children, and elderly people fled to the church for sanctuary, which the US proceed to subject to cannon fire until it collapsed (hence the origin of the cemetary around the site).
    We also saw the traditional outdoor ovens where breads and pies and cakes are baked, drying racks for vegetables, fruits, and nuts gathered during the year, and the North and South houses (divided by a sacred stream). This stream provides water for the pueblo (which only allows propane--no electricity or telephone). Teddy Roosevelt had taken away its sacred source, the Blue Lake in the mountains in the early 1900s, and it was restored to the tribe under freedom of religion considerations in 1970. We saw the kivas only by the tops of the ladders.
    The North and South houses were the big, block, adobe buildings of several stories (up to five) that are accessible by ladders to the roof. This arrangement (and the wall, now 2-3 feet but formerly up to 15 feet, that surrounds the pueblo) were concessions to the necessity of defense from maurading, nomadic tribues, but now doors have been constructed (often brightly colored). These houses look very beautiful against the backdrop of the mountains.
    After the tour, we were free to walk around and buy things. Here, the danger of New Mexico emerged again--I bought a lot. They sold traditional crafts like jewelry, pottery, moccasins and smudge sticks as well as postcards and t-shirts.
    We left Taos, which was incredible and had a quick lunch. Unfortunately, due to traffic, we were unable to make it to Bandelier National Monument (there was a big accident and possibly some kind of chemical spill), but we stopped at a visitor center/gift store and saw some more pottery (and lots of nice arrows; I would have gotten one for Tyler if they weren't so expensive).
    After returning to Santa Fe,  we had a game of Apples to Apples in my room before we had dinner at the same place we had lunch the first day. We had one big table in a room all to ourselves, which was quite relaxing and festive. Everyone's in high spirits to get to the canyon!
    Tomorrow we leave for Chaco Canyon which means I won't have internet access and won't be able to post again until January 12.
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